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In Argentina, the family man Julio Madariaga is the patriarch of his family and considers his farm the paradise on Earth. One of his daughters, Luisa Desnoyers, has married the Frenchman immigrant Marcelo Desnoyers and they have one son, the playboy Julio, and one daughter, the gorgeous student of Sorbonne Chi Chi. His other daughter, Elena von Hartrott, has married the German Karl von Hartrott, and they have three sons: Heinrich, Gustav and Franz. In 1938, Heinrich returns from Germany for a family reunion and when he tells that he has joined the SS, the displeased Julio Madariaga has a heart attack and dies. When France is occupied by the Germans, the family reunites in Paris and Franz is the Nazi administrator in France. The alienated Julio has a studio where he paints, and has a love affair with Marguerite Laurier, the wife of the owner of a newspaper Etienne Laurier that is fighting in Belgium. Meanwhile Chi Chi joins the French resistance and is arrested. Julio uses the ... Written by
Claudio Carvalho, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
Apparently the positive comments here are largely by people who've never seen the silent version. Well, the Valentino/Ingram edition shows up on TCM from time to time and there is no comparison.
The silent version is poetry, a dream fantasy. This is soap, earthbound, every line of dialog falling to earth with a thud. How come Lana Turner missed this one?
The problem is not just that Glenn Ford is too corn-fed. Ingrid Thulin looks trapped and unhappy in every scene, as if she is being hammered from all sides between takes. She and Glenn Ford have zero chemistry, playing whole scenes together without even looking at each other. It's impossible to imagine this as a grand passion on any level.
Then we have to believe Yvette Mimieux is a serious political thinker. She scowls, purses her lips and looks like she needs an Alka Seltzer. The older folks do a bit better, but only Charles Boyer and Paul Henried come off well. Paul Lukas looks tired and disoriented, and if you liked Lee J. Cobb as a boozy patriarch in "The Brothers Karamazov," you'll like him here, because it's the same performance.
But it's almost sacrilege to use World War II as the background to this decorative exercise. Vicente Minnelli never could direct people, the actors were always on their own, but he'd get great performances out of sets, props, costumes and the color wheel.
That's what happens here, with lots of eye candy and some stunningly inept staging. A student riot looks like a dance number minus the jazz, and there's a crucial scene with Paul Lukas trapped behind his desk and Charles Boyer at loose ends in the rest of the room that is as clumsy a piece of film-making as any major director has ever taken responsibility for.
The film is too long, too slow, too ham-fisted, too under-energized. And then it runs down. In the last reel, Paul Frees dubs around five different characters and almost gets into an argument with himself. When Armageddon finally arrives, it's a relief.
The project was probably doomed from the beginning, but rescue is nowhere in sight, and no one covers himself with glory. Minnelli's characteristic melancholy is contagious, and this viewer regrets a missed opportunity.
Find the silent. It's long, but unlike this one, it pays off.
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